SPRINGFIELD – Effingham County boys’ basketball coach Jake Darling knows both sides of ‘the streak’ but doesn’t like to talk about it.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger, a bigger target,” Darling said of the Rebels’ 28-game dominance over County rival South Effingham High School.
ECHS will be looking for their 29th straight win over hosts Mustangs on Friday evening December 10th.
And SEHS will seek to put an end to the imperfections that have appeared twice a year since January 6, 2007.
âI never bring up the streak,â Darling said. âIt’s a regional game. It’s a game we must have. We’re in their place first, so playing on the road is tough. I build (the game) with challenges like this.
Darling knows both sides of the streak very well. He started teaching in the county 14 years ago and was an assistant men’s basketball coach at South Effingham.
Back then, basketball in the county was just a nice diversion between the football and baseball seasons. Neither school compared well to the region’s Brunswicks, Glynn Academys and Richmond Hills.
âMy early years (at South Effingham) it was a game we can win,â Darling said of playing ECHS. âBack then it was ‘in this game we have a chance.’ “
After four years at South, Darling joined Donnie Arrington’s coaching staff in Effingham County for the 2012-13 season. The Rebels were made up of a group that included JaKeenan Gant and Jay Wright – and both played in the NCAA Division I Louisiana in Lafayette.
Darling took over the reins of head coach two years later in 2014 and continued the reign of terror over the Mustangs.
ECHS has won the last 13 games in double digits.
Last season the Rebels had three starters and consistently beat SEHS 66-53.
After four games this season, ECHS and SEHS both had 1-3 records, perhaps indicating parity, but the Rebels are coming back five starters from an 18-game winning team in 2020-21.
The Mustangs suffered two narrow losses on their start in 2021-22, including a 63-62 loss to New Hampstead – a team that advanced two rounds in the state tournament a year ago.
Darling will therefore emphasize the importance of playing at a cross-county school that has improved under the guidance of first-year coach Rico Campbell.
âThe most important thing we’re talking about is it’s a rivalry game,â Darling said. âThere will be a lot of emotion in there. There are guys you’ve played with all your life, so it’s about pride, being able to look them in the eye and say ‘we beat you’. “
And the mention of the winning streak, though barely whispered over the course of the season, did eventually surface.
âIt’s a good thing to talk at the end of the season at our banquet,â said Darling.